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[Editorial] Public Institutions Turing Blind Eye to Privacy Infringement

[Editorial] Public Institutions Turing Blind Eye to Privacy Infringement

Posted February. 16, 2005 22:54,   


The fact that people’s resident registration numbers are exposed to one of three public institutions, including government agencies, is an indication that the government neglects protection of its people’s privacy. The Anti-fingerprint Citizens League, a civic group, and the Association of Information and Human Rights Activists reportedly found that 34 out of 100 homepages of major public institutions they inspected expose resident registration numbers.

It is a rarity in advanced countries to have a resident registration system centering too much on convenience of administration such as Korea’s. Under Korea’s system, not only the state of individual property, but also comprehensive personal information is easily accessible through resident registration numbers. As related information is kept and maintained by credit card companies, telecom companies, hospitals, corporations and schools, chances are that unexpected problems will emerge or serious privacy infringements like disclosure of marriage and medical history, can happen.

In practice, most countries under Anglo-American law like the U.S., the U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia do not have an identity card system and personal identification numbers at a national level, not to mention a resident registration system. Germany has a resident registration system and national identity card system in place, but the country gives a serial number to the “ID Card,” not to the “person,” when issuing an ID card. Therefore, the country gives a new number every time it issues a new ID card.

Digital experts say with one voice that the resident registration number mandatorily given to all citizens runs high risks of bringing about “data-veillance.” If such a concern is realized, there is a risk that Korea, a digital powerhouse, could become a “privacy infringement powerhouse.”

The government should never forget that the personal information it keeps is individual privacy to be protected. The more the world is moving toward an information society, the stricter the protection of individual privacy should be. Many problems related to the existing resident registration system should improve when the government introduces a new identity registration system after the abolition of the head of household system.